Book Club | Everything is f****d
I read Mark Manson's "The Subtle Art of not Giving a F***" and couple of years back now and genuinely loved it. I like how he mixed anecdotes and humour with psychology. I have since gone back and read it once and have it on my 2020 reading list.
I had some high hopes for his new book "Everything is F****d: A book about Hope" and have had a myriad of mixed feelings as I was reading it. Initially, I picked it up for two reasons. One, I liked his last book and thought there would be a good chance I would like this one also. Two, it was a book about hope and my life seemed pretty unimpressive and not at all as I imagined it. I needed a little hope to get me through. So I armed myself with a blue highlighter to pinpoint important information and advice and set to reading.
The book starts off with the real life story of Witold Pileki who was the first person to tell the world about what was going on in the Nazi concentration camps and sought to free prisoners by volunteering to enter Auschwitz himself. Which sounds like a terrible idea. In any case, the Calvary didn't come to rescue all the prisoners and he ended up having to escape by himself. He had hope and it was all for nothing. Manson tells these stories or 'hope narratives' frequently throughout the book because they are the sort of naïve rubbish we spout to ourselves to protect ourselves from the "Uncomfortable Truth" that everything is f****d.
Next he mentions the paradox of progress, the idea that the more everything gets 'better' or more advanced in our society, the worse things seem for us. This resonated. He spends a lot of time talking about the history and psychology of self control. I didn't really find this chapter super relevant as a whole- can you just relate it to the idea of hope already? But one section I did find interesting was "In order to maintain hope, we decide we must change ourselves, become somebody totally new and different. This desire to change ourselves then refills us with hope. The "old me" couldn't shake that terrible smoking habit, but the "new me" will." P. 30. I frequently have these thoughts- If only I change this thing then everything will be better. I never knew how to communicate or compromise, but once I change that about myself then I will have great relationships. I never knew how to take care of my body and mind properly, so once I do that I will finally love myself. But what if you do these things and the expectation doesn't meet the reality? Your hope is shattered and you have to find something new to hope in/for.
I'm not going to lie. Even though I highlighted a lot from the first part of the book, I didn't really enjoy it. Manson unpacked some cool ideas about there being two different parts of our brain, the thinking and feeling brain. He also talked about values, self-worth and identity but I felt like he was talking about so many different topics and going off on so many different tangents, it was really difficult to put the pieces together, work out how they connected and what they said about hope.
He then spends WAY too many chapters talking about how to create your own religion. The purpose of this was to demonstrate how religions (not just spiritual ones but also ideologies such as feminism and environmentalism and interpersonal religions such as relationships) all share the same properties. All of these have values, rituals and communities. We have hope in these religions and it is only until they are proven untrue or morally wrong that we lose all hope and no longer have a sense of identity or purpose. The main premise of these chapters was good, but it could have been summed up in a few sentences, see above.
The second half of the book was the actual good part. Here he talks about how hope is fundamental to our psychology but that it also requires things to be broken. If things start going to good, we have nothing else to hope for and thus start looking for bad things where there are none. Instead he suggests Amor Fati, a concept embraced by Nietzsche which meant the acceptance of life and experience. There is no 'good day' or 'bad day' there are just days. Accept everything just as it is and don't hope for anything more, less or different.
There is a heap of other stuff that went on between there and the end, but the biggest take-away I got from this book was "Don't hope for a better life. Simply be a better life" P.156. Stop wasting time dreaming of a fantasy future and instead be the person you want to be right now. Live the way you want to live right now. Stop hoping. Start doing.